Over winter break I spent a lot of time laying awake at night thinking about my life. Something in my life was not quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s not to say that life hasn’t been grand, because it has! I just had a small piece of something that was missing. Whatever it was had been bothering me for a while now (for years actually), but I always pushed it out of my mind to focus on things like getting married, doing my schoolwork, and earning some money to pay the bills.
The last seven months of my life were especially busy. I met the love of my life, somehow convinced her to date me, and married her all in that short time. Plus, I started my graduate studies at BYU and worked twenty hours a week at a high-paying job that I honestly had zero passion for. I was running at full speed, all the time.
Once the crazy festivities of getting married were past and school ended for the semester, I had a lot more free time to think about what has been bothering me. I finally figured it out.
I do too much.
I’m an overachiever, a perfectionist, a little bit OCD, and pretty smart. That is not a good combination. These things have been obvious for most of my life and I’ve done my best to combat them, but I still spread myself too thin. In October 2003, I remember stumbling across the following picture in the New Era (a LDS Church magazine for young adults). It made me laugh, but I didn’t give it too much though.
I remember thinking, “I’m way smarter than that. I can do a ton of things at once.” So I did. Throughout my youth, I latched on to every opportunity I got, never stopping to think why I was doing it or how it would actually benefit me. I’m thankful to say that I was able to succeed at almost everything I tried. However, it left me permanently tuckered out. I’ve been chugging along with very little energy for the past few years simply because I do too much.
I started to realize this recently when I stepped down from a leadership position in a club at school. However, I quit because it wasn’t contributing to my career goal of becoming a professor, not because I felt I was spreading myself thin. But once I quit I had one less thing on my plate. And you know what? It felt great. After that, I began to think that I might actually be doing too much.
This last week during winter vacation is when I finally realized that I truly need to simplify my life. Little things have built up to it, like my previous example of stepping down from club leadership, but I still didn’t realize where I was heading. But one night, I was aimlessly browsing the Internet and I stumbled across some sites advocating simplicity in life. Most were just DIY projects that helped organize things in your house and whatnot. But finally, those sites led me to one word that changed my entire approach to life.
That one word got stuck in my head. I started reading some of the posts I found online on sites such as the The Minimalists. They advocate that less is more, that we are happier when we do fewer things. I dug deeper and deeper and loved what I found. My favorite of their exercises is to pack up all your belongings like you’re going to move. Once you need something, you unpack it. After a few weeks you discover just how much useless stuff you have. You then donate or trash all of those items, which helps reduce the clutter in your life. Once you’ve done this, you’re free to focus on needs rather than wants.
Unfortunately, a lot of what they said requires getting rid of all the junk in your house and I was California, unable to do anything until I got back home. But that didn’t stop me from getting rid of things I have here. I made plans to sell my Kindle, and my wife and I declined some free stuff from her parents because we knew we’d never use it (normally, we accept everything anyone ever offers to us). I highly doubt that I’ll get rid of everything I don’t use on a daily basis, but there is quite a mountain of things piling up in our apartment that we never use. We’re finally home and I can start to throw things out! I should have taken some before and after pictures, but I was too excited and just tore through organizing and throwing things out that I didn’t get any.
Anyway, I’m going to post some more updates on how the whole minimalism thing goes! So far, it’s been awesome!